Community legal centres are independent community organisations that provide free advice, casework and legal education to their communities. There are currently 51 centres in Victoria. Some specialise in particular areas of law. For more information see the Community Law website.

We administer funding to most (39) of Victoria's community legal centres and the Federation of Community Legal Centres and monitor their performance against service agreement obligations and service targets to ensure accountability for the use of those funds. We are increasingly focusing on working with the sector to understand and respond to legal need collaboratively through joint legal needs assessment projects.

This year we:

  • provided and administered record funding of more than $25.4 million to centres (up 13.9% from last year). We committed $16,403,565 of state government funds to centres, including $2,103,981 in new strategic grants
  • held the first round of grants for the Innovation and Transformation Fund, receiving a total of 21 applications from 25 centres. We committed to grants of $636,000 from the fund’s total two-year allocation of $2 million for projects that will commence in 2015–16. The remaining $1.36 million will be allocated during 2015–16
  • supported three centres to amalgamate and form the Western Community Legal Centre, a new entity that will provide high quality legal assistance across the western suburbs of Melbourne
  • ensured that centres were given appropriate additional funds to increase staff salaries under the Social and Community Services Award Equal Remuneration Order. This additional investment totalled $1,772,354 in 2014–15.

Community legal centre performance outputs

Activity 2014–15 2013–14 % change
Information 57,937 54,057 7.2% 
Advice 56,014 52,113 7.5% 
Cases* opened 24,941 23,697 5.2% 
Community legal education projects delivered 1,185 1,121 5.7% 
Law reform and legal policy submissions 107 145 -35.5% 

* Community legal centre case definition is different from a case conducted under a grant of legal assistance. It involves anything that is more than one-off advice – for example, a lawyer looking over documents, undertaking research, providing written advice, making telephone calls, advocating for a person or negotiating on their behalf, or making a simple appearance before a court or tribunal. Occasionally it involves representation in court, including complex matters.

Top 10 matters*

Matter type Number of matters
Family or domestic violence order 13,280
Child contacts or contact orders 7,176
Government/administrative issues relating to fines 4,598
Road traffic and motor vehicle regulatory offences 4,112
Property in marriage 3,718
Divorce 3,370
Family or domestic violence 2,628
Motor vehicle accident 2,625
Child residency 2,355
Family law (other) 2,059

Explanatory notes for performance outputs

Figures are from a database used by 36 of the 40 community legal centres funded through the Community Legal Services Program in 2014–15. The figures do not include client service and community and law reform activities undertaken by the following funded centres: Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service (Vic), Homeless Law (Justice Connect), Job Watch and Refugee and Immigration Legal Clinic. These community legal centres do not use the common database. Figures do not include client advice provided by the Tenants’ Union of Victoria, which records this activity on a separate database.

Funding through the Community Legal Sector Program

We granted and administered funding to 39 community legal centres across Victoria and the Federation of Community Legal Centres as the sector's peak body. Funding was provided by the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department and by Victoria Legal Aid out of its state funding allocation. 

Community legal centre Commonwealth funding* ($) State core funding ($) Total payments ($)
Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service (Vic)** 0 304,028 304,028
Barwon Community Legal Service 476,934 509,090 986,024
Brimbank Melton Community Legal Centre, Community West 238,121 595,894 834,015
Broadmeadows Community Legal Service 254,017 336,795 590,812
Casey Cardinia Legal Service 296,273 273,996 570,269
Central Highlands Community Legal Centre 264,670 351,862 616,532
Consumer Action Law Centre** 284,633 983,357 1,267,990
Darebin Community Legal Centre 186,106 463,703 649,809
Disability Discrimination Legal Service** 205,931 51,160 257,091
Eastern Community Legal Centre 422,110 718,075 1,140,185
Emma House Domestic Violence Service 59,029 79,349 138,378
Environment Defenders Office (Victoria)** 0 179,417 179,417
Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic)** 0 775,290 775,290
Fitzroy LegaI Service 191,760 460,367 652,127
Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre 101,276 248,868 350,144
Footscray Community Legal Centre 92,046 398,118 490,164
Gippsland Community Legal Service, Anglicare Victoria 341,713 260,583 602,296
Homeless Law, Justice Connect** 162,723 315,571 478,294
Hume Riverina Community Legal Service, Upper Murray Family Care 461,735 252,320 714,055
Job Watch** 0 449,757 449,757
Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre, Advocacy and Rights Centre (including Goulburn Valley Community Legal Centre) 217,887 809,046 1,026,933
Monash Oakleigh Legal Service 207,529 27,869 235,398
Moonee Valley Legal Service 91,289 258,024 349,313
Moreland Community Legal Centre 105,281 227,404 332,685
Murray Mallee Community Legal Service, Mallee Family Care 476,989 167,874 644,863
North Melbourne Legal Service 220,255 224,542 444,797
Peninsula Community Legal Centre 720,772 964,897 1,685,669
Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre** 0 162,519 162,591
Senior Rights Victoria, Council on the Ageing** 78,673 565,989 644,662
Social Security Rights Victoria 213,977 44,171 258,148
Springvale Community Aid and Advice Bureau** 80,749 4,017 84,766
Springvale Monash Legal Service 444,014 246,784 690,798
St Kilda Legal Service 107,922 300,959 399,881
Tenants Union of Victoria** 119,853 614,479 734,332
West Heidelberg Community Legal Service 101,236 192,966 294,202
Western Suburbs Legal Service 99,445 199,123 298,568
Whittlesea Community Legal Service, Whittlesea Community Connections 244,518 450,423 694,941
Women's Legal Service Victoria** 1,044,044 317,433 1,361,477
Wyndham Legal Service 245,864 349,329 595,193
Youthlaw, Young People's Legal Rights Centre** 143,208 164,136 307,344
Total 9,002,582

* This funding includes Commonwealth funding to the Community Legal Sector Program. It does not include other Commonwealth funding allocated directly to centres.

** Specialist community legal centre

Explanatory notes for funding

These funding amounts include core grants and contributions from the Commonwealth and Victorian governments to assist funded community legal centres to meet increased staff salaries under the Social and Community Services Award Equal Remuneration Order.

Victoria Legal Aid’s ‘Comprehensive operating statement’ (see the 'Financial statements' under Our finances) excludes Commonwealth grants (core and one-off) to community legal centres because we do not control these funds and we do not make the decisions that enable these investments in the centres. As such, these Commonwealth grants cannot be considered Victoria Legal Aid revenue.

Special projects strategic grants

We also committed an additional $2,103,981 in strategic grants for special projects in 2014–15. These included grants to centres for innovation and transformation fund projects to be implemented from 1 July 2015, including:

  • Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Service to develop a Koori Women’s service hub at their new premises
  • Eastern Community Legal Centre to develop a triage and intake process enabling eastern suburbs clients to be referred better into a range of community legal centre and Victoria Legal Aid services
  • the Federation of Community Legal Centres to help community legal centres better measure the impact and effectiveness of their services
  • Eastern Community Legal Centre to provide more legal help in Healesville and throughout the Yarra Ranges.
  • inTouch Multicultural Centre against Family Violence to provide better legal help to culturally and linguistically diverse victims of family violence.
  • Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre and Women’s Legal Service for two-year pilot projects to deliver child protection and family law legal services.
  • Wyndham Legal Service to fit out significant new premises in Werribee which have become the main office of the newly formed Western Community Legal Centre.